Saturday, August 20, 2011

Best, Last and Memorable Lines

When I pick up a book, I want to be pulled into a story without realizing I’m being swept away into another world. I want the story to unfold and I don't want to be caught up with how well the writer can write. Yes, you read that right. I love writers who can write beautiful prose, but I don’t want to be stopped in my tracks to admire their handy work. I want to slip into this wondrous place of dreams, the place the writer promised to take me, the place that will change me forever. I admire any writer who can do that.

I started thinking about the first lines of books I've read that hooked me into the story world created by the writer and the last lines that kept me there.

Lines that brought up questions:

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in
its own way. – Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. - Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones

Lines that introduce a fascinating character:

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. –Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

My sister Kwan believes she has yin eyes. She sees those who have died and now dwell in the world of Yin, ghosts who leave the mists just to visit her kitchen on Balboa Street in San Francisco. – Amy Tang, The Hundred Secret Senses

Lines that created an image:
Stone Guardian’s footsteps sounded beneath her window like the clapper of a blind fortune-teller. - Bette Bao Lord, The Middle Heart

Her first memory of pain was an image of her mother. – Gail Tsukiyama, Women of the Silk

Lines that introduced a situation:
It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not. – Paul Auster, City of Glass

Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu. – Ha Jin, Waiting

It was the day my grandmother exploded. – Iain M. Banks, The Crow Road

I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkable smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974. – Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex

A voice with a new perspective:
Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space. – Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye

Here is a list of last lines of books I’ve enjoyed.

He is coming and I am here. – Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveller’s Wife

Whatever our struggles and triumphs, however we may suffer them, all too soon they bleed into a wash, just like watery ink on paper – Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha

As I left China farther and farther behind, I looked out the window and saw a great universe beyond the plane’s silver wing. I took one more glance over my past life and then turned to the future. I was eager to embrace the world. – Jung Chang, Wild Swan

There was a hum of bees and the musky odor of pinks filled the air. – Kate Chopin, The Awakening

Of course, it’s only superstition, just for fun. But see how fast the smoke rises—oh, even faster when we laugh, lifting our hopes, higher and higher. – Amy Tan, The Kitchen God’s Wife

Light falls through the window, falls onto me, into me. Moments. All gathering towards this one. - Jenny Downham, Before I Die

Last of all I will leave you with a clip of memorable lines from films, just to make you smile. Oh, by the way, in searching for a clip, I found that men had most of the good lines. Now why is that, I wonder?

Now you know some of my favorite lines. What are yours?

Till next time,


cgibson5o said...

I have been hooked by the first line of a good story, but not too often. Most times it takes a few more lines (or paragraphs, or maybe even pages) than that. But when the first line gets you, you know you're probably in for a great read.

An interesting list might be the list of opening lines that made you put the book back down. ;-)

EW Gibson said...


I think that's a great idea, a list of opening lines that 'sucked.' Lines that had the reverse effect of making me close the book instead of keeping it open. LOL


Donna said...

The Lovely Bones had me hooked by that first line too.

I'm a huge John Grisham fan. So here are the first two and last lines in The Street Lawyer:

The man with the rubber boots stepped into the elevator behind me, but I didn't see him at first. I smelled him though-the pungent odor of smoke and cheap wine and life on the street without soap.

I didn't dare think of the future; the past was still happening.

EW Gibson said...


Oh, those are good. The opening line I get a sense and image of the character entering behind the POV character. And the last line, I like even better. It conjures up so many questions and I wonder what happened in the book. I'm going to add that to my list of books to read. Thank you.


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